According to a study carried about by Consumer Reports in 2012, 86% of consumers think that meat raised without antibiotics should be available in their local supermarket and, largely, it is. But you have to know what to look for. Labels can be misleading. Luckily, we can help.
The following guide, compiled from Consumer Reports, the Environmental Working Group, and PEW Charitable Trusts.
Labels -- From Consumer Reports Greener Choicesi and Meat on Drugsii
The USDA’s organic rules prohibit antibiotic use on livestock and must be verified on-site by an independent accredited certifier. So, you can feel confident that any meat or poultry labeled “USDA Organic” comes from animals that never have been given any antibiotics.
Organic + Grassfed [ii]
“Grassfed” labels, usually found on beef, can be useful if they are coupled with the “organic” label. Animals raised organically must have been raised without antibiotics. If “grassfed” appears alone, however, antibiotics might have been given.
No Antibiotics Administered, Raised Without Antibiotics, and variationsi
Many variations, such as "No antibiotics added" or "Never ever given antibiotics." This labeling is helpful but most reliable when accompanied by a "USDA Process Verified" shield. However, backing by a private certifier, such as Global Animal Partnership for Whole Foods' meat, is equally reliable.
Do not to rely on:
“Natural” may sound as good, but it doesn’t indicate anything about antibiotics. Unless the label explicitly says otherwise, antibiotics might have been used in raising “natural” meat and poultry. According to the USDA, “natural” means only that the final product doesn’t contain artificial ingredients or added color and is minimally processed. So, while "natural" is approved by the USDA, it is not a meaningful statement about antibiotics use.
The USDA specifically says it never authorizes the use of “antibiotic-free,” so this claim has no clear or consistent meaning in the marketplace and should not appear on packaging. Via: greenerchoices.org
No Antibiotic Residuesi
This is not a USDA-approved claim and only indicates that antibiotics residue levels in the final product fall below Food and Drug Administration tolerance thresholds. This label does not mean no drugs were used in the animal’s life.
No Antibiotics for Growth Promotioni
This claim is not approved by the USDA. Even though an animal may not have been given antibiotics for growth promotion, it still could have received them on a daily basis to prevent disease, which is the main use for the drugs in crowded growing facilities.
Grassfed, Free-range, Cage-free, Pasture-raised etc.i
Alone, labels regarding how an animal was confined does not indicate much about whether or not an animal received unnecessary antibiotics.
Cost -- From Consumer Reports Meat on Drugsii
Meat and poultry raised without antibiotics does not have to be expensive. While prices vary among stores, types and cuts of meat, in some cases meat raised without antibiotics can cost less than the national average. Virtually all of the “no antibiotics” chicken, turkey, and pork products found by Consumer Report shoppers in their 2012 study were priced under $10 per pound. Some meat raised without antibiotics could be found at virtually every chain where such meat is available at under $5 per pound. v
Where to Shop -- From PEW Charitable Trusts Top Companies Moving Away from Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms iii
These grocery chains’ store brands offer meat raised without routine antibiotics.
Ahold USA (Giant, Martin’s, Peapod, Stop & Shop) - Nature’s Promise
Costco - Kirkland
Delhaize (Bloom, Bottom Dollar, Food Lion, Hannaford, Harveys, Sweetbay) – Nature’s Place
Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P, Food Basics, Food Emporium, Pathmark, SuperFresh, Waldbaum’s) – Green Way and Mid-Atlantic Country Farms
H-e-B (Central Market, H-e-B, H-e-B Plus) - H-e-B Natural
Kroger (Baker’s, City Market, Dillons, Food 4 Less, Foods Co., Fred Meyer, Fry’s, Gerbes, JayC, King Soopers, Kroger, Owen’s, pay Less, QFC, Ralphs, Scott’s, Smith’s - Simple Truth
Safeway (Carrs, Dominick’s, genuardi’s, pavilions, Randalls, Safeway, Tom Thumb, Vons) - Open Nature and O Organics
Supervalu (acme, albertsons, Cub, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher’s, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Save-a-Lot, Shaw’s/Star Market, Shop ‘n Save, Shoppers) - Wild Harvest Natural
Publix - GreenWise
Trader Joe’s - Trader Joe’s All-Natural and Trader Joe’s Organic
Wegmans – all meat and poultry
Whole Foods Market – Food You Feel Good About
Brands/Producers -- From PEW Charitable Trusts Top Companies Moving Away from Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farmsiii
These producers offer the meat listed raised without routine antibiotics.
Applegate – Beef, pork, poultry
Bell & Evans – Poultry
Coleman (Perdue) – Poultry
Estancia Beef – Beef
Evol Foods – Beef, pork, poultry
FreeBird – Poultry
Harvestland (Perdue) – Poultry
Luvo – Beef, chicken, turkey
MamaMancini’s – Beef and turkey meatballs
Meyer Natural Angus – Beef
Miller Poultry – Poultry
Murray’s – PoultryNiman Ranch – Beef, lamb, pork
Ranch Foods Direct – Beef
Redbird Chicken – Poultry
Saffron Road – Chicken, lamb
Springer Mountain Farms – Chicken
Thousand Hills Cattle Co. – Beef
White Oak Pastures – Beef, chicken, lamb
[i] Consumer Reports – Greener Choices, available online: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/06/antibiotics-are-widely-used-by-u-s-meat-industry/index.htm
[ii] Consumer Reports (2012) Meat on Drugs available online: https://www.consumerreports.org/content/dam/cro/news_articles/health/CR%20Meat%20On%20Drugs%20Report%2006-12.pdf
[iii] PEW Charitable Trusts, Top Companies Moving Away from Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms. Available online: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/2014/04/09/top-food-companies-moving-away-from-overuse-of-antibiotics-on-industrial-farms
iv Environmental Working Group, Decoding Meat and Dairy Product Labels. Available online: http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/decoding-meat-dairy-product-labels/
v Consumer Reports (2012) Meat on Drugs pg.16 [see above]